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Dad Leaves His 7-Year-Old Alone at the Movies

Photograph by Jekaterina Nikitina/Getty Images

Yes, you read that right. This week’s Mistake of the Week features comedian/host and hands-on dad of two Zach Selwyn. Let me state up front and add that Zach is brave to share this mistake with us, because I’m pretty sure if this were live storytelling, he would risk being stoned by a few irate moms. Here’s how it all started.

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"When my wife and I see previews for horrible kid movies—like 'Planes'—we often maturely yell out in the theatre, 'Not it!' This means the other parent will have to suffer through said film. For example, during the previews for the movie 'Boxtrolls,' I won, so I don’t have to see 'Paddington Bear' next summer. I had lost the not-it game for 'Planes' and so I reluctantly brought my son Ryzer to the Grove, the popular Los Angeles mall. After dropping $50 on the tickets and snacks, I noticed 'We’re the Millers' was playing across the hallway.

"Always a fan of family marijuana smuggling capers, as the credits started on 'Planes,' which looked painful to me, I decided to leave my son in the theater alone so I could slip out and see 'We’re the Millers' by myself," Zach finished.

I was desperate to ask how old Ryzer was, but didn’t want to appear too judgmental, so instead I said, “Wow. Then what happened?” Because I’m sure that’s what they would have taught me in journalism school.

“I said to Ryzer, 'Wait here. When your movie's over, sit here in the theater. Do not exit. I will be in theater five.'"

At least the boy was old enough to read the number five. Still curiosity got the better of me, “And how old was Ryzer at the time?” The look on my face gave me away.

“7. I know, I know, terrible idea. You said you wanted a mistake.”

“I do. Good for you! Go on.”

“When I returned after my movie, Ryzer was nowhere to be found. I hit the panic button in my mind, assuming some theater predator had stolen him. I ran through the theaters and I couldn’t find him.”

This is why I can’t watch shows that everyone loves, like “The Blacklist,” any time I think a kid is in jeopardy I practically pass out. But I’ve met Zach's son, so I know he lived.

He continued, “All that was on my mind was my wife castrating me and a life spent regretting this stupid decision for a mediocre Jason Sudeikis/Jennifer Aniston movie. Fortunately, the Grove has a tiny video arcade with two motorcycle video games and a claw toy-grabbing machine. After losing my mind for 15 minutes, I found Ryzer straddling a stationary Kawasaki bike looking around for me to pump four quarters into it.

"Elated, relieved, ecstatic and grateful, I scooped him up into my arms and said the one thing fathers tell their sons all the time in this world: 'Don't tell Mom.'"

I now suffer through terrible children’s movies, $9 ‘jumpy tents’ at farmers’ markets and even wine-free birthday parties.

I laughed at his joke, took a deep breath and then asked, “But you did tell her right? Reading this is not the first time she’ll be hearing about it?”

“No. Right. I told Wendy after a few glasses of wine a couple of nights later. It was not received well. But thankfully all was OK.”

“'NOT RECEIVED WELL'?” That must have been very good wine. (NOTE: Forgiveness is not my first instinct where my son’s safety is concerned.)

I was interested if there were any lasting affects of this mishap, like the time when Gideon was 2.5 and I turned my head and he ran off and fell in a swimming pool. Fortunately, he was pulled out by an 11-year-old girl as I was running up. For the next two years, every time we went for a poolside barbecue he would say repeatedly to anyone in earshot, “I almost drowned in a pool.”

Apparently Ryzer was not scarred. “He only vaguely remembers it, and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. He never brings it up, but every once in a while Wendy and I will recall it as a reminder not to assume a 7-year-old has the mental maturity of a 16-year-old.”

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Zach wants to be clear that he hasn’t done anything like this since: “I now suffer through terrible children’s movies, $9 ‘jumpy tents’ at farmers markets and even wine-free birthday parties. When I’m on duty, I keep my eyes on my kids for one simple reason: I NEVER WANT TO BE F*&KING THAT SCARED AGAIN.”

What’s the “mistake of the week” you bounced back from? Share it in the comments!

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